Good news from Tampa Bay this week

This article represents the opinion of the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.

London calling. Tampa Bay’s connection to the global business world took a big leap this week when Virgin Atlantic announced the launch of year-round direct flights between Tampa International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport. The new service will begin flying four times a week on November 3, but will expand to a daily service by November 28. It’s another way to visit one of the greatest cities in the world; British Airways already flies to London’s Gatwick Airport from Tampa. But Virgin’s flights to Heathrow, London’s busiest airport, offer a new opportunity for business and leisure travelers alike. More than 100 UK businesses are based in the Tampa Bay area, and as noted by TIA Managing Director Joe Lopano: “There is a huge benefit to our thriving business community in now having a direct connection with the world’s leading business airport. This means faster and more convenient air connections, not only throughout Europe, but also to Africa and Asia. And that means new visitors to the region’s beaches and downtown areas, which explains the growth of metropolitan areas. It’s another reminder of how important the airport is to the future of Tampa Bay.

Clean up Tampa. Sometimes it’s the little things that define a city. That’s why it’s encouraging that Tampa is holding a cleanup today to remove litter from city waterways, neighborhoods and parks. The effort, called “Keep It Clean, Tampa!”, will include a recently purchased boat that will cruise the Hillsborough River and the waters off the Davis Islands and Bayshore Boulevard. The city, the Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful organization and neighborhood leaders are also rallying hundreds of volunteers for a trash cleanup. Volunteers are encouraged to clean up their own neighborhoods or move to one of four designated parks today: Cheney Park at 801 E Yukon St., Borrell Park at 808 E 26th Ave., Gadsden Park at 6901 S MacDill Ave. and Grant Park at 3724 N 54th St. Those interested can find full details here: Tampa.gov/KeepitClean. Even those with their own kayak can volunteer. This is a great outreach program that will beautify Tampa and build civic spirit. And those who can’t attend can do their part by not littering. Find a trash can. Or take it home.

USF football stadium. The University of South Florida took another step this week toward building an on-campus football stadium. On Wednesday, officials explained the bidding process to a host of architecture and construction firms. the plan is to award the project in August, the next major step in building a 35,000-seat stadium on the Tampa campus. Athletic director Michael Kelly said the stadium would be one of the few in college football built in this century and the design should reflect the times. Although Wednesday’s meeting revealed little new information, it brought that nine-figure project closer to reality. The stadium will likely take a year or two to design, then a year or two to build, and the university plans to open the stadium for the 2026 season. Let’s hope USF does well, with a design that ages well and with a inclusive procurement process that will give local and minority-owned businesses a chance to compete. This should be an exercise in community building as much as building Bulls football. Let’s keep the university going.

Skyway’s useful fence. The Sunshine Skyway fence works. Two deaths are the only confirmed suicides from the bridge in the past 12 months, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Before the construction of the barrier, whose construction was completed in 2021, about one person per month died jumping from the bridge. In 2018, 18 died – a record, as Tony Marrero of The Times reported this week. The barrier – a stainless steel netting rising above the existing wall, creating a barrier almost 11 feet high – stretches across a stretch of about a kilometer and a half of the bridge at its highest points. The idea is to save time by making it harder for people to act on impulse and creating some valuable extra moments for first responders to arrive. In addition to the reduction in the number of fatalities, the Highway Patrol recorded eight calls involving a person who was intercepted before he could jump. Compare that to the average of 11 such calls each year between 2016 and 2021. Critics said the closing would be a horrific waste of money that would not achieve its purpose. They were wrong on every count. And more people are alive thanks to this common sense precaution.

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Editorials are the corporate voice of the Tampa Bay Times. Members of the Editorial Board are Editorial Editor Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinionated news.

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